About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!
Website: http://agoodtimewithwine.com
Matt.mmwine has written 199 articles so far, you can find them below.

About Matt.mmwine

Sommelier, wine writer, and overall Motor Mouth, I appear on various TV shows, host local wine events, and write about wine, food, cocktails, family & more!

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

A Perfect Gift For Wine Lovers

The SkyBar One Wine System

The SkyBar One Wine System

Finding the perfect gift for wine lovers is just a click away. The SkyBar One Wine system will help round out a wine lovers accessory collection. Just like an wine aficionado wants the right glass for their favorite wine, they also delight in having the right way to serve their wine. I was skeptical when I was first asked to review this nifty contraption, but after a week of using it, I’m a believer.

When I read the SkyBar One product info, I was unsure about receiving one of these wine systems for review. The device is meant to chill, pour, preserve and display your wine for up to 10 days. Frankly, there’s rarely leftover wine in my home to preserve. And if there is, I simply use a hand pump to vacuum the air out, and throw the bottle in my fridge. Why do I need something that, on sale, is $350, to do what a $20 device does? I almost declined the sample to review. However, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if this is truly a device a wine lover needs or not, and share my honest opinion.  I can honestly say I would love to be given the SkyBar One Wine System as a gift.

My first impression of the SkyBar One Wine System was not exactly the best. The box is a bit big, and the device stands 18 inches high by 8 inches wide and 12 inches deep. I have a tiny 1940s wood home, and extra space is at a premium. However, Robin said to set it on the side of my desk – as it looked quite handsome there. While setting up the SkyBar One Wine System, I felt some of the parts were a bit light, and hoped I wouldn’t break them. They weren’t flimsy, just not very hefty. I set up the system in about 10 minutes, and was ready to give it a run for it’s money.

Set The SkyBar One Wine System temperature by wine type

Set The SkyBar One Wine System temperature by wine type

The on-board computer and digital display are awesome on the SkyBar One Wine System. I love how easy it was to set the perfect temperature for my wine. It allowed me to select by wine type, or I could have set it to my preferred serving temperaturate manually. I did not wait around to see how long it took for my 75 degree bottle of wine from the grocery store took to get to the recommended 65 degrees for Cabernet Sauvignon. I ran some errands, and when I was back home a few hours later, the wine was ready to pour.

Setting my Cabernet Sauvignon to 65 degrees

Setting my Cabernet Sauvignon to 65 degrees

Testing the preservation of wine with a hand pump versus SkyBar One Wine System

Testing the preservation of wine with a hand pump versus SkyBar One Wine System

I decided to test the SkyBar One Wine System side by side with my $12 pump, and see how the wine stood up after a week. I bought two bottles of St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon, to taste them side by side for 5 days and see if one bottle was better preserved than the other. There were some very interesting results.

Typically, we never allow a bottle of wine to sit open, pumped or not, for more than 24 hours. I find the taste of the wine degrades rather significantly, except in a few instances. To keep tasting a bottle pumped for a week was indeed going to be a challenge. On day one, the wines taste exactly the same, though the SkyBar One had the wine at a perfect 65 degrees, while my control bottle was much warmer. I pumped the control bottle and placed it in the fridge. Keeping it cool should stop the aging and oxidation process, holding the taste consistent for the test. Day two, however, had different results.

When the wine comes out of the fridge to test on the next day, it’s about 42 degrees, way too cold for red or white wine to drink. I let it sit out in the glass for about 20 minutes to warm, while I tested the SkyBar One wine. It was perfect, tasting exactly as it should and did on day one. Once the control glass warmed, I tasted it and while it was fine, there was definitely a little less oomph to the glass. On to day three, four and five.

The SkyBar One Wine System on my desk

The SkyBar One Wine System on my desk

I will spare you the process, and get down to the nitty gritty results of the SkyBar One Wine System versus the hand pump for preservation. Hands down, the SkyBar One rocked. The flavor of the control bottle was strained by day three, and by day four, I poured out the remaining half of the $26 bottle of wine. It was just done. However, on day five, the wine in the SkyBar One Wine System was still absolutely perfect to drink. I’m actually sipping on some now. I’ve gone through about half the bottle, as the pour system is very precise, allowing me to pour just a little bit each time. Aside from perfect serving temperature and longer preservation of wine, there are some great features of the wine system, as well as some drawbacks.

The Skybar One Wine System chills and preserves your wine, making it a perfect gift

The Skybar One Wine System chills and preserves your wine, making it a perfect gift

The SkyBar One Wine System not only can store your wine at the perfect temperature for serving, it makes it very easy to serve. Simply unlock the vacuum seal, press the pour button and you have a steady stream of wine to pour a taste, or a glass. The same on board computer that sets the temperature also ensures that your wine is vacuum sealed, even if you forget to click the PRESERVE button after serving. I know, because I forgot! There is also a filter on the end of the tube that draws the wine, meant to keep sediment out of your glass, and in the bottle. All great features for this fantastic device.

The drawbacks are few, but there. First, it only fits standard, 750ml wine bottles. This would be absolutely AMAZING if it fit the 1.5L magnum bottles. I would LOVE to be able to buy a few high end magnums and pour sips over the next 10 days for friends and family. Additionally, the device is meant to house standard, cork sealed bottles. While they offer an attachment for wine bottles that are screw-cap, they do not guarantee it will work with all bottles. However, there are few screw cap bottles of wine I want to keep around for 10 days, so I don’t see that as an issue.

You can find the Skybar One Wine System online, and at select retailers. Any wine loving recipient would be happy to receive this great device as a gift! Happy Holidays!

Harry and David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Gifts For You

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

Anticipating a Harry & David Gift

“What’s in the box?” No, it wasn’t Brad Pitt’s scene from Seven, but the scene unfolding in my living room. A gift had arrived from Harry & David, and Robin was dying to know what we got. Ever since I partnered with gift great Harry & David to review their Fruit and Cheese of the Month club, and pair it with wine of course, we’ve been on pins and needles to see what was coming. We couldn’t wait to try everything out, as well as offer one of their fantastic gifts of fruit and cheese to you as a giveaway.  I’ve always been a fan and customer of their delicious fruits and goodies, but after visiting Harry & David’s orchards and operations in October, I feel even more strongly about the company.

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

Indulge in Harry & David Pears

It’s no secret that Harry & David offer some of the most delicious pears you’ll ever sink your teeth into. They are not only the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever tasted, but their color and texture is amazing. Their other fruit gifts are equally as delicious, and they’ve partnered with great cheese companies to give you amazing wine pairing options. Couple that with the new line of wine from Harry & David and you’ve got amazing gift options, or a perfect picnic or party delivered right to your door.

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

Harry & David Fruit and Cheese of The Month Club

The gift I received was a sample of what you can expect when you order a gift of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month. The giveaway, details are below, will be three months of their fantastic fruit, paired with an artisan cheese delivered to your door. It’s an amazing gift idea, something new and exciting each month it arrives. From their Royal Riviera Pears to their Honeycrisp Apples, my favorite apples ever, you will savor each and every bite. The cheeses are amazing options like Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese or their own Cheddar cheese which is creamy and delicious.

While this is a sponsored post, I’ve always been a put your money where your mouth is kind of person. I couldn’t in good conscious recommend and write about something I wouldn’t pay my own money for. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, sending their pears and other gifts to people all the time. The nurses who’ve been helping my sister recover for the last year have been delighted to recieve a gift of Harry & David’s fresh fruit, and of course go wild over the MooseMunch. I even sent a bunch of goodies to Robin’s mom this past Thanksgiving, including two boxes of Harry & David’s Royal Riviera Pears.

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

Pair Cheddar Cheese with Chardonnay Wine

I first paired the Harry & David Honeycrisp apple, topped with a slice of their delicious aged cheddar with the 2011 Rogue Valley Chardonnay, also from Harry & David. Chardonnay pairs so nicely with cheddar cheese, and of course the apples topped with the delicious creamy cheddar is a perfect pairing too. However, the apple was a tad too sweet for the chardonnay! So, I ate the apple, then the cheese separately and finished with the delicious, crisp white wine and was very happy. The Harry & David chardonnay is bursting with fresh crisp flavors of pear and apple, has a nice body and enough acidity to make it food friendly. You can order three white wines from Harry and David, and I think the Gewurztraminer would work perfectly with the sweet apples as well as the cheddar.

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Rogue Creamey Touvelle Smokey Cheese

The Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears were super sweet and super juicy. I put a slice of the Rogue Creamery Touvelle Smokey cheese on top, and it was an interesting mix of sweet and savory. The pears were WAY too sweet for the chardonnay, and would have gone much better with their viognier, or even the gewurztraminer. The fruit needs a sweeter, more fruit forward wine. The cheese was very smokey, even the tip of it was a dark smoked color. It was very unique, and it paired nicely with the Chardonnay as well.

And now, you have the chance to win three months of Harry & David’s Fruit and Cheese of the Month club! A $130 value, you will receive their Royal Riviera Pears and Mascarpone cheese for the December shipment. Then the January Shipment will be Cushman’s HoneyBells and Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese. Finally, your great gift wraps up with Royal Oranges and Beechers Flagship Cheese.  The Pears and Mascarpone will pair perfectly with a Moscato d’Asti, or even a sweeter, Oregon Riesling. The Honeybell Oranges will also pair well with sweeter wines, riesling, moscato or even Sauternes, while the Seastack cheese should match nicely with pinot noir or chardonnay. Finally, your Royal Oranges pair with the same wines the Honeybell will, and the Beechers Flagship should be nice with Syrah or Chardonnay.

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Harry & David Wine, Fruit and Cheese!

Entering the giveaway is simple. You have from Thursday December 13th through Sunday December 16th 11:59 pm EST  to enter. Each person can enter up to three times, one for Facebook, one for Twitter, and one for Pinterest. For each entry, you must leave a SEPARATE COMMENT below. Make sure I have your email address, as the winner will be selected at random based on the comments below, and notified by email only.

How To Win This Delicious Fruit and Cheese Gift from Harry & David

1 – Tweet the following then comment below: Winning a @HarryandDavid Fruit & Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious @mmwine http://budurl.com/hadgift

2- Post the following on Facebook and comment: Winning this Harry & David Fruit and Cheese Gift would make my holiday delicious  http://budurl.com/hadgift

3- Repin your favorite Harry and David item from http://pinterest.com/harryanddavid/ and comment below where we can see your pin

This contest is open to US residents only, and if you live in a state where Harry & David can not ship wine, an alternate gift will be made available as necessary.

You can see more of what Harry & David offer, just

Follow Harry & David on Twitter
Like Harry & David on Facebook
Follow Harry & David on Pinterest

Disclaimer – I was provided a Fruit and Cheese gift to review and a stipend for my time and any materials invested in writing this sponsored post.  I was not asked for a positive review, but for an honest one.  All opinions are my own

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

Enjoying Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears and Honeycrisp Apples

In the mean time, I have some delicious fruit to enjoy. Cheers!

 

Don’t Race To The Finish Of Jeff Gordon’s Joie de Vivre

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon

When you hear the name Jeff Gordon, you probably think of going around in circles while being assaulted by the smell of burning rubber mixed with gasoline. The thought of wine, no less good wine, probably never comes into your mind. I’m about to change that, and talk about not only Jeff Gordon’s passion for good wine, but tell you why this delicious red wine is a perfect choice around the holidays.

After winning his first championship in his sport’s premier series in 1995, Jeff Gordon went to London and wanted to celebrate. Jeff ordered a Joseph Drouhin Batard-Montrachet, and says it was then that his passion for fine wine began. He had never seen a white wine decanted, and upon tasting it, declared the white Burgundy wine “liquid gold.” Jeff went on to launch the Jeff Gordon Collection of wines in the fall of 2005 with a 2004 Carneros Chardonnay, working with winemaking legend August “Joe” Briggs, owner of Briggs & Sons Winemaking Co. Jeff said when he decided to start a wine line, he asked around for a great winemaker, and Briggs name came up over and over. The two met and starting working together, releasing a Napa Valley Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and their flagship wine Joie de Vivre, a red wine blend.

Review of Jeff Gordon's Joie de Vivre Red Wine

Jeff Gordon’s Joie de Vivre Red Wine

I was skeptical when asked to join the virtual wine tasting with Jeff Gordon Wine on Twitter. I had just written a post about celebrity endorsed wine, and many of you shared my views; it’s more gimmick than good. And, I knew nothing about Gordon or his wine line, other than they were asking me to sip on what I figured would be $61 worth of gasoline to power his NASCAR ride. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Jeff Gordon Joie de Vivre 2008 red wine delivered amazing flavors that made every sip worth the price.

The 2008 Joie de Vivre is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Syrah. Most of the fruit is sourced from Napa, with Cabernet Sauvignon coming from Corbett Vineyards (Spring Mountain), the Merlot from Solari Vineyard (Calistoga) and the Syrah from Page Nord Vineyard (Yountville). There is 15% Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Monte Rosso in the blend. The wine is aged 20 months in a mixture of French and American oak, of which about 30% is new, the rest 2 to 3 year old barrels. It’s 14.5% ABV, alcohol by volume, not a “small” wine, but not big by California standards. The alcohol may be approaching the high side, but that doesn’t show up in the palate, at all.

Like most big, tannic red wines, this wine needs to breathe. I decanted it for about an hour, but honestly think it could sit for two hours and open up even more. The bouquet of the Joie de Vivre is sweet red fruit, reminiscent of chocolate covered cherries. My initial tasting notes were a BIG big palate, dark cherry with big spices on the finish, and it being very dry (tannic). However, with just thirty minutes more air, decanting for an hour and a half, the palate smoothed out considerably, with warm Christmas spice well integrated with the round dark cherry fruit. The complexity continued to unfold, with notes of leather being intertwined with the fruit and spice. I was sad that the wine was gone before the wine sat in the decanter for 2 hours. I think it evolved quite  nicely.

Pair Jeff Gordon's Joie de Vivre red wine with cured meats and more

Pair Jeff Gordon’s Joie de Vivre red wine with cured meats and more

While I paired this red wine with dried salami and cheddar cheese, I think it’s a perfect holiday or Christmas wine. Though there is no rule you can’t have white wine in December, I tend to prefer heavier red wines, especially with the foods that are typically on a holiday table. Our family celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas, and red meat seems to be served for both holidays. With Hanukkah, we often serve a brisket of beef, usually in a tomato based gravy, while with Christmas we often have a delicious Prime Rib, usually coated with herbs and garlic. The Jeff Gordon Wines Joie de Vivre would pair nicely with either dish, as well as lamb or even goose.

Sip some wine with Nascar great Jeff Gordon

Sip some wine with Nascar great Jeff Gordon

There are only 254 cases of this great red wine produced, and the distribution is quite limited, mainly in restaurants. You can of course order Joie de Vivre direct from Jeff Gordon Wine online.I was fortunate enough to receive this wine as a sample, but my opinions are based on the high quality of the product, not the fact that it was free.

A few other wine bloggers were invited to the virtual tasting. During the Twitter tasting, not only did we share tasting notes, but also thoughts about the wine in terms of aging potential, food pairings, etc. Many of us agreed this wine would age nicely. While it’s drinking very well now, I would like to look at it in 3-5 years. Some thought it had 10 years of cellar potential. I’m just not that patient!  As for the other wine blogger’s thoughts, you can see what some say here: Wine JuliaTraveling Wine ChickFabocwinechickNow and ZinFood and Wine Chickie

Now that I’ve told you this celeb wine will rock your socks off, how likely are you to try it, or other celeb endorsed wines? Let me know below!

 

Crockpot Carnitas And Red Wine

Robin Travels to Isla Mujeres Mexico

Robin Travels to Isla Mujeres Mexico

Robin loves Mexico. Before we met in 2005, she traveled to a small island off Cancun called Isla Mujeres for 10+ years in a row. She loves everything about traveling to Mexico, the sun, the beaches, the margaritas and definitely the food. Robin loves Mexican food so much, that she’ll want to book a trip just to have delicious tacos or guacamole. So, when I found a crockpot carnitas recipe on Eat, Live Run, I figured I could bring Mexico to Robin.

Jenna really put together a super easy recipe. Since the full ingredient list is on her site, I’ll just run through the preparation, so we can get to the wine. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.

prepare the dry rub for the crockpot carnitas

prepare the dry rub for the crockpot carnitas

Mix the rub well, and coat both sides of the 2 pound flank steak with it. While the steak sits in the bottom of the crockpot, chop up the red pepper, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, and onion.

Season the Flank Steak for the Crockpot Carnitas

Season the Flank Steak for the Crockpot Carnitas

Chop the peppers to cook with the carnitas

Chop the peppers to cook with the carnitas

The rest of the preparation is pretty simple. The meat is already on the bottom of the crockpot. Take the chopped peppers and onion, and then cover the meat with them. There’s no liquid going into the crockpot, so I tried to keep the peppers on top of the steak, that way they wouldn’t burn on the sides.

Peppers and Onions on the Flank Steak

Peppers and Onions on the Flank Steak

Set the slow-cooker for 8 hours on a low setting, and go relax. That’s all it takes to make this pretty easy dish. For the last 45 minutes or so, I took the wine for dinner out of the cellar, and pulled the cork. I decided on a Grenache blend, something that had red berries and spice. While my twitter friend Elizabeth DeHoff suggested gewurztraminer to pair with this dish, I wanted something that would keep the spices going, rather than balance them out. Elizabeth’s idea was a good one, and if you want a nice refreshing white, then gewurztraminer will do nicely.

Hecht & Bannier 2009 Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Hecht & Bannier 2009 Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Hecht & Bannier 2009 Cotes du Roussillon Villages is a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and carignan grapes. At $25, this is a French wine to have on hand, as it works well with or without food. Think dark cherries and dark raspberries, doused with a nice firm shaking of pepper. The wine has a nice, silky palate, and the fruit is fresh and prominent. This wine works well with beef, roasted or grilled. And it did fairly well with crockpot carnitas. Though provided as a sample, it’s a wine I wholeheartedly recommend.

Slow-cooker Carnitas and French Red Wine

Slow-cooker Carnitas and French Red Wine

Once the meat is done, take it out of the slow-cooker using two spatulas under each side of the meat. It’ll fall apart easily, but we used two forks to shred the meat. We put it back in the slow-cooker to soak up the juices, and prepared the fixings. We heated the flour tortillas on a warm skillet, then topped each with a little of the meat, some sour cream, some cheddar and some avocado. Jenna has the exact recipe on her site, and recommends a slightly different finish for the taco.

Robin and I in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Robin and I in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

While the scenery was nothing like Mexico, the food was pretty darned close. These slow-cooker carnitas tacos will definitely be made again! The preparation was simple, and the flavor was fantastic. The wine, of course, was perfect. The beef carnitas were not that spicy, and I’d probably add a little chipotle powder in with the rub, to give the peppers some depth and smoke. That said, it was a great taco dinner.

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

What’s your favorite Mexican meal? Let me know, leave a comment below!

Lambrusco .. Seriously

The last time someone gave me a bottle of Lambrusco, she was 82, it was a 1.5 liter jug, and it cost about a nickle. I thanked her kindly, and promised her I’d let her know how it as. Secretly, I hoped to leave the state before I saw her again, never having to admit it went right down the drain. So when my friend, and newly Certified Sommelier Kirk told me to throw this bottle in the fridge and try it one night, I was a bit taken aback. This is someone who a year ago helped me pick three killer wines for my CBS 12 Thanksgiving segment. Surely, he’s lost his marbles.

Cavicchioli Lambrusco Dell'Emilia

Cavicchioli Lambrusco Dell’Emilia

I’m happy to report Kirk still has his marbles, and the wine wasn’t half bad. The Cavicchioli family has been making this wine since 1928, hence the label, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It’s made with three grapes, sorbara, grasparossa and salamino.  You have to go in knowing this is a simple wine.

The $8  Cavicchioli Family Lambrusco Dolce won’t stand up to bold pasta or grilled meat dishes. It’s not meant for that. Think of this as a perfect backyard sipper. It’s meant to be served chilled, and it’s semi-sweet palate of black cherry and cola will pair well with an antipasta dish, some appetizers, and some desserts. This may actually be the red wine for your chocolate pairing needs. The wine is frizzante, which means it has a light effervescence quality, and though the palate is fresh fruit and cola, there is an earthy, rustic component to the flavors that says old world.

This budget focused red wine ties in perfectly with my CBS 12 television segment with Suzanne Boyd. It’s pretty short, and gives you some other wines under $10 to try.

You can check out the article Suzanne mentioned in the clip that has more budget focused wines. Then, let me know when the last time you had Lambrusco was. And if you haven’t tried it, I’d love for you to grab a bottle and let me know what you think. Just leave a comment below.

We Don’t Drink Enough Vouvray

Twitter Tasting of Vouvray Wines

Tasting five Vouvray wines

When people ask me to recommend a sweeter white wine, Vouvray is usually what comes to mind. However, all that is Vouvray is not sweet, and it’s definitely a wine we don’t drink enough of. Vouvray is a region in France’s Loire Valley, and is located east of Tours, in the Tourain district. The primary grape grown in Vouvray is chenin blanc, though arbois is a rarely used grape that can be found in the region. The wines can range from dry to sweet, and about 40% of them are sparkling wines, while the rest are of course, still. I recently participated in a virtual “Twitter Taste Live” of five wines from Vouvray, and I can’t really say anything bad about any of them.

Marc Bredif 2010 Vouvray sec white wine

Marc Bredif 2010 Vouvray sec white wine

The Marc Bredif 2010 Vouvray had a funky, pungent cheese nose. Great way to start a wine review, don’t you think? The palate, however was nothing like that. The palate is full of nectarine and apricot nectar, and is slightly effervescent. There are secondary flavors of almonds or marzipan that were quite pleasant. There was some nice acidity that comes through as citrus flavors. All in all a solid $16 wine.

All of the Vouvray wines in this post were sec, or dry, with little residual sugar left after fermentation. However, the fresh, fruit forward palate makes them appear almost sweet.

Sweetness of Vouvray
Most Dry to Most Sweet

Sweetness of Champagne
Most Dry to Most Sweet
  • sec
  • demi-sec
  • moelleux
  • doux
  • brut natural
  • extra brut
  • brut
  • extra dry
  • sec
  • demi-sec
  • doux

Vouvray is a very food friendly wine, and can be paired with fruit, almonds, chicken, shellfish, seafood, and pork. However, don’t leave out cheese, as a tremendous range will pair, including cheddar and goat cheese.

Tasting the Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray $20

Tasting the Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray $20

Next up, the Bourillon Dorleans 2010 Vouvray, La Coulee d’Argent. This was a very dry, crisp white wine with beautiful white floral scents in the bouquet, and a palate of ripe stone fruit with a bracing citrus finish. Stone fruit is a general term for peaches, nectarines, apricots, and this white wine had a little hint of all of them.  A number of my fellow wine writers thought this was a stand up and take notice wine. The acidity, that citrus I keep mentioning, makes this a very food friendly wine. Fatty fish, cheese, lobster and shrimp are all great options. For $20, worth giving a try.

Domaine des Aubuisieres 2011 Vouvray

Domaine des Aubuisieres 2011 Vouvray

The 2011 Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Cuvee de Silex was more dry and acidic than the other wines of the evening. Cuvee de Silex is a blend of chenin blanc from three different vineyards, each are composed of silex, a flint and sand based soil. This was a glass of muddled green apple with lime juice to flesh it out. There were interesting nuances of baking spice on the palate, specifically the finish, that balanced the fruit nicely. There was minerality on the palate, the flint coming through from the terroir, or earth. Another $16-18 wine that a number of other wine writers found favorable too. Pamela liked the idea of pairing this white wine with pike fish with Beurre Blanc!

2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray

2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray

We moved to the 2011 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray. This French white wine has a very fragrant nose, with a palate that had a lot of floral notes and a big, spicy finish. A number of other tasters found a lot of minerality and acidity on this wine, and I really did not. I found it to taste of white flowers, baking spice, and honeysuckle. Another French white under $25!

Champalou Vouvray 2010

Champalou Vouvray 2010

The last wine of the evening was the 2010 Champalou Vouvray, imported by Kermit Lynch. Just 12.5% ABV, this is a great lunch wine! Big flavors of nectarines surrounded by white jasmine flowers on both the bouquet and palate, this wine was beautiful. There was that flinty minerality that is common to all the Vouvray wines we had this evening, but it was subtle, not overpowering. There were some comments that perhaps this was the most “New World” of all the wines, tasting the least French. However, several people found that this wine opened up beautifully, becoming a bit more lean and crisp, and having the flabby flavors unwind and dissipate. For $15, this would work nicely with a grilled or broiled white fish like sole or snapper for lunch!

All of these wines were samples, part of a Tastelive.com blogger event. I am always grateful to participate in these events because not only does it expose me to wines I may not have had before, but the team at Tastelive knows that I’ll only write about wines I would serve to you when friends visit me!

I  have a few takeaways for you from this French white wine tasting

  • Vouvray is made from chenin blanc grapes
  • Vouvray is a more fruit forward, and often sweeter white wine
  • Vouvray is very food friendly, especially fish, shellfish, chicken, and cheese
  • Vouvray can be found from $15-20, and can rock your socks off
  • Vouvray can work nicely for Thanksgiving, it will pair with the turkey, ham, and some sides
  • Vouvray can age, and has been known to be fresh and delicious 5, 10 and even 40 years old
  • Vouvray can benefit from a little air. All of the wines tonight changed over a few hours
  • Vouvray pair with your Halloween candy, though look for demi-sec or sweeter

I’ve brought Vouvray to the CBS12 studios before, as a recommendation for Delicious white Wines From France. It’s definitely something we need to sip more of! So,when was the last time you said “Hey, Vouvray” when ordering wine? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

Oregon Photo Recap… and Who Won The Harry and David Basket

 

Thank you all for entering the Harry & David Cheese & Salami gift basket giveaway. It was awesome to be able to share the delicious treats I was able to sample on my media trip. Rebecca Graham was selected at random using random.org’s third-party random drawing program, and I’ll be  excited to hear her thoughts  on the delicious gift. I’ll also talk about some wine that will pair with the delicious treats in an upcoming article.

The Jacksomeville Magnolia Inn B&B

The Jacksomeville Magnolia Inn B&B

The Harry & David media tour starts with 12 bloggers meeting at the Jacksonville Magnolia Inn, a fantastic Bed & Breakfast in Jacksonville, Oregon. We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company and of course, some great Oregon wine.

wine and nibbles at the JV Magnolia Inn

wine and nibbles at the Jacksonville Magnolia Inn

Delicious Oregon Wine

Delicious Oregon Wine

my room at the Jacksoneville Magnloia Inn

my room at the Jacksoneville Magnloia Inn

My room had a great “Manly” feel to it with the cigar band photos and the various musical instruments. The flowers would have made Robin happy.

Our first night in Oregon, we went over to Sandy Coughlin’s home for dinner. Sandy and her husband Paul were amazing hosts, and put on an absolutely wonderful welcome meal for us. The evening was capped off with their very talented daughter playing the violin for us. It was a captivating moment.

Reluctant Entertainer author Sandy Coughlin sets the mood

Reluctant Entertainer author Sandy Coughlin sets the mood

Bamboo surrounds the table at Sandy Coughlin's home

Bamboo surrounds the table at Sandy Coughlin’s home

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Sandy used a number of Harry & David products, all of which were fantastic. She also used a few of their new “Easy Entertaining” items, including the lobster risotto, which was superb. It was so good, that we’ve decided to place an order of several of the items for our Thanksgiving dinner. Of note, the Crab Quattro Formaggio mac and cheese was to die for.

Sandy made a great appetizer with Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears, Sweet Potato Butter, Goat cheese and flat bread. It was delicious!

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One Bite Appetizer of Amazingness

One Bite Appetizer of Amazingness

Our next day started with a tour of the Harry & David Royal Riviera pear orchards. Orchard Director Matt Borman spoke to us about everything from the method Harry & David uses to graft the pear trees on to quince rootstock to maintain a reasonable tree height, to the use of gravity flow and reservoir water to irrigate the orchards. The views were spectacular, as was the fruit!

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Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

A few fun facts about the Harry & David orchards:

  • There are 40 degree temperature swings during the Royal Riviera pear growing season
  • These pears are winter harvest, unlike Bartlett pears which are summer harvest
  • There is a team of 300 people that hand harvest the 14,000 tons of Royal Riviera pears annually
  • The quince rootstock that the pear trees are gown on limit their height to about 8 feet
  • The Harry & David team puts out about 1,300 bee hives annually

The next day we had the opportunity to tour the Harry & David operations. From their chocolate factory (and yes, Charlie is in the chocolate factory) to their production lines to their basket assembly lines, Harry & David was a high quality shop through and through. Of all the things that I was impressed by, the longevity of employees was remarkable. Two of our tour guides had 25 years with the company, and during the visit we watched a 50 year employee be celebrated by their coworkers.

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A few fun facts about Harry & David treats

  • Tankers deliver 40,000 pounds of liquid chocolate to Harry & David each week
  • Harry & David uses 4-5 million pounds of chocolate a year
  • They make their own chocolate for Harry & David gifts

The team at Harry & David works hard to deliver quality gifts to their customers every day. It was a lot of fun to meet the people behind the company, and have a back stage pass to all the delicious goodies. I’ve been a long time customer of Harry & David, and this sponsored media trip strengthened that relationship. There is no doubt Harry & David will be on my holiday table this year.

Harry & David team member sorting pears

Harry & David team member sorting pears

Holiday Elves

Harry & David Holiday Elves?

Other bloggers/writers who attended this media trip:
Aggie
MaggyDaraBrenda, Brian, Sommer, Heather, Gaby, Julie, CarrieKelly (from Martha Stuart Living), and Sandy

Carrie Minns of Le Pomme de Portland sips wine

Carrie Minns of Le Pomme de Portland sips wine

We had some great Oregon wines during this trip, aside from the new line of Harry & David wines. I did not take many tasting notes, but a few that we sipped on are:

  • Cowhorn 2011 Spiral 36 – white wine blend of viognier marsanne and roussanne
  • Trium 2006 Grower’s Cuvee – red wine blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc
  • Brandborg 2011 Gewurztraminer
  • Slagle Creek 2008  Farmstead Red – red wine blend
  • Domaine Paradox pinot noir
  • Dr Bergstrom 2008 Late Harvest Riesling dessert wine
  • Merrill Cellars Cotes du Rogue Blanc 2010. 50% Viognier 50% Marsanne

Do you have a favorite Oregon wine? Have you tried any? Let me know below!

Pairing Wine With A Crockpot Chili Recipe

slow cooker crockpot chili and wine pairing

Easy to make slow cooker chili

As the weather gets cooler, people are looking for easy, hearty meals for fall. I’ve seen a lot of people searching for chili recipes, and the wine to pair with them. Chili in our house is a very hot topic, no pun intended. Robin used to make this interesting “tomato soup” that she called chili. I didn’t love it. I was given an award winning chili recipe that I loved, but it made most people cry from the heat. So, when I found this slow cooker chili recipe, I had to make it. And, of course, pair wine.

During my trip to Oregon with Harry & David, I had the chance to meet 12 awesome bloggers. The 11 women and 1 other guy were all super talented at both writing and photography, and have inspired me to amp up my blog! I decided a fun way to do that would be to take their recipes, make them myself, and pair wines with them. This is the first of such projects, and I hope you enjoy it. Brenda’s crockpot (slow cooker) chili recipe on A Farmgirl’s Dabbles is fairly easy to follow and make. She found it in a magazine, played around to make it her own, and it’s been her “Ole Faithful” ever since.

When making her recipe, for the chili powder, I went with 3 Tablespoons from her 3-6 TBS range. I also went 2 chili powder and 1 chipotle powder, since I wanted some smoke and depth to the flavors. I’d probably use 3 TBS of chili powder and 1 TBS of chipotle powder next time. Other than that, the recipe is pretty easy to follow. So, lets talk wine and chili pairing!

clean slate 2009 riesling mosel germany

The Clean Slate 2009 riesling from Mosel, Germany

I know you’re saying “Matt, wine with chili? No way! It’s beer!” I assure you that while a nice craft beer goes well with chili, wine can go equally as well. There are a few wine option for chili pairing, and in general they are zinfandel, shiraz or syrah, riesling, malbec and tempranillo.

The first wine I paired with the chili was the 2009 Clean Slate riesling from Mosel, Germany. This wine was a sample I received over a year ago. It had a screw cap, and I was concerned that after a year, it would be “done.” However, many German rieslings can age for quite some time, and still taste fantastic. This $10 white wine is actually two vintages old now, and was crisp and fresh and full of flavor. The bouquet had feint petrol and river rock scents, and the palate shows nice stone fruit (apricot and nectarines), with really nice acidity. Acidity comes across sometimes as citrus flavors in white wines, and this German riesling had a hint of lime that turned immediatly into peach nectar. However, the finish was a flinty minerality that kept it from being too sweet or syrupy. Well done at $10, definitely a buy, and available in grocery stores (at least in Florida).

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz

People often ask “How can I tell a wine is good just by looking at it?” This wine answers that question, “You can’t.” While you can form general ideas about a wine if you know the grape, the area, and the producer, there’s NEVER a guarantee that you’ll have a good wine in the bottle. Forget the fact that wine can be cooked, corked, or dead, it’s a fact that the same grape, from the same area, even in vineyards separated by only a road, can taste completely different. When I grabbed this $22 bottle of Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz at the grocery store, I figured I’d be ok. Penfolds is a fairly big name, Shiraz is a grape that Australia does well, and I’m a sommelier. I know my stuff. Right? Well, sort of. I know my stuff because I taste a lot of wines, and this was one I hadn’t had before.

The Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2010 Shiraz nose was sweet spice from the oak, more than any fruit notes. What fruit was there was dark, blackberry and plum. The approach was just dry, sweet wood, without much else to it. Frankly, this wine is a disappointment. Too much oak, not enough fruit, and no spice to speak of. Definitely not what I expect from an Australian shiraz. I pressed on.

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin

The third wine I had with my chili was the Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zin. This is a grocery store wine I often have on hand. I was turned on to it in 2008 by a twitter friend, Duane, while I was doing an event of 5 other grocery store zinfandels. For the price, which is $10, it offers great fruit, nice spice, and has not disappointed me in four years. Sure enough, this red wine and chili pairing was perfect. The wine had plum, prunes and blackberries with a sweet spice element to it. The finish was a hearty burst of black pepper, and all in all it stood up very well to the chili.

A Farmgirl's Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

A Farmgirl’s Dabbles crockpot chili hit the spot

Happily, this chili and wine pairing was a success. Even though one wine disappointed, two of the wines absolutely rocked, especially at $10. Brenda’s slow cooker chili is a cool weather meal we can make fairly easily, and enjoy for a few days. And, of course, pair wine with.

What is your favorite beverage to drink with chili? Let me know below!